Otaki Trees Row

jackie elliottKapiti Cr ’embarrassed’ by council’s prosecution of elderly couple

By Alan Tristram

 Kapiti Coast Councillor Jackie Elliott says she’s ‘acutely embarrassed by Council’s actions’over the prosecution of an elderly Otaki couple for felling native trees.

Cr Elliott criticised a statement by fellow councillor Gavin Welsh’s press ‘staff were doing a job that elected members asked them to do ‘ (see story below)

She says: “It is a shock that Cr Welsh seriously believes that staff were asking elected members to decide whether or not to prosecute the residents when they first gave us a briefing on the Oriwa Court (Otaki) case 2 weeks ago.

“KCDC staff had already begun legal proceedings some months ago.

“I am acutely embarrassed by the actions of Council.”

Here we go again with the latest CEO comments as reported in the Kapiti News of yesterday.

Clearly the CEO does not get it. He really should learn to keep his foot out of his mouth. He and Council continue to attract national ridicule including from Amy Adams. Better not to comment at all or at least give some considered thought before spouting forth.

Clearly the CEO needs to undertake a revision of a public servant 101 course. He and his lieutenant are there to offer free and frank advice not be critical or offer personal opinion of the very people, the ratepayers and voters that support and pay for Council services. He is there to serve the ratepayers not fight them through legal expensive smokescreens and blocking tactics.

Councillors should stop being whimps , develop some backbone,and stand up to these bullying tactics , demand clear sound and unbiased advice and certainly not personal opinions. But above all demand a change in culture that creates a different environment in the public realm.

Clearly also the CEO needs to sack his Comms. team and to take a basic communications 101 course. It ain’t going too well to date. Every pronouncement merely adds more fuel to the fire of public discontent with Council as a whole. Keeping things secret through public excluded meetings does not cut it either. (Note to Mayor re election promises ‘Openess and Transparency”–what happened?)

How about starting with a admission of actually getting it wrong on occasions, (you had a brief experience of this on the first Council meeting of this triennium–and it was not that difficult or painful and even possibly slightly freeing, to say ‘ look I stuffed up and got it wrong’–and even earned you some brownie points, over the PDP review first appointment debacle) after all we are only human and we all fail at times, the big question is whether we learn from our failures or merely keep repeating the same mistakes– coupled with improved ‘listening’ skills. Its the arrogance that creates the problems. The attitude of we know best and you the ratepayers are merely silly and untutored pillocks that we have to put up with.

If you consider and listen to ratepayers as ‘wallys’, ‘muppits’ a ‘nuisance’ protagonists or whatever to battle with you will speak to them as wallys etc. and encourage a negative reaction, whereas if you consider ratepayers as capable of providing a positive contribution that you actually listen to, you will communicate very differently and hear a very different response.

And while doing that revision maybe a course in risk management would come in handy as well.

Every issue/project undertaken by Council should answer some very basic project management questions (which Councillors should demand credible answers to);

WHY are we doing this. (the context)
WHAT are we doing. (the actual task)
HOW are we doing this. (the manner of its doing)
WHERE are we doing this. ( the situation)
WHEN are we doing this. (the timelines)
HOW MUCH cost and time is involved. (the dollars)
WHAT are the risks (the Risks)
HOW DO we communicate this effectively (the communication)

while also retaining consistency of approach to all and being not only just but seen to be just.

The CEO, Pat Dougherty, is quoted in Saturday’s DomPost as being surprised by the criticism Council has incurred over the Standen tree affair. Clearly he and the deputy CEO are out of touch with and insensitive to ratepayers as well as users. They seem to feel free to spend up large on legal action rather than pursue a more inclusive and sensible approach let alone communicate better.

Councillor Gavin Welsh’s leap to defend staff action in retrospect seems foolhardy given it appears Councillors were not consulted but merely informed after the event? Or maybe Councillors are just not up to the task and do not ask the right questions at the right times? Certainly the Council meetings I have attended do not give one a lot of encouragement that Councillors are performing their governance role effectively by asking incisive questions or demanding satisfactory answers or holding senior staff to account for their responses or actions.

Councillors as a start should be demanding a regular update of pending legal action with associated costs and risks. They and the Mayor should also have a quite chat with the CEO to appraise him of the need to consider his responses before rushing into press with insensitive and ill judged remarks that merely encourage and perpetuate a negative view of the CEO and of KCDC as a whole, well beyond the confines of the District’s boundaries.

Interesting the alacrity with which KCDC appear to leap into legal action in an inequitable way against ‘soft targets’. Why the reluctance to take any action over the long running saga of the Collmog bridge for example or developers who contravene sub-division rules, but are happy to pursue an elderly couple?

For a new Council and Mayor that professes openness and transparency it is time Councillors effectively exerted their governance role over certain members of the executive team to ensure a change in culture and approach in that executive team. Councillors need to demand a change in culture among certain senior executive staff and if those certain senior executive staff are unwilling to change they should appoint new staff who are willing to lead a inclusive approach rather than being dictatorial and arrogant.

Councillors should absolutely not be approving increases in pay for the lamentable performance of the CEO and deputy CEO.

I wonder what happened to the person who came to my house, prior to the Election, with what he promised to do good for the Kapiti community if he was elected. I, like many others are now feeling very let down if Gavin Welsh continues to perform in this manner.
Gavin, I trust that you recently must have had a mind explosion inside of your Guardsman’s helmet, and for one who has mayoral aspirations, you certainly have lost many brownie points!

It time the KCDC stopped wasting its rate payers money and actually did something that benefited the community. Prosecuting an elderly couple for removing diseased trees?? Really have they nothing better to do?? Seems more than a little ironic that at the same time we have trucks and bulldozers smashing down trees and cutting through dunes for an expressway that is not wanted or needed!! Time for Kapiti Councillor Gavin Welsh to back down on this one and find something sensible to do.

Good to regularly remind Councillor Gavin Welsh (and other Councillors and the Mayor) of his election promises over rate increases only a few months ago.

What little I saw of the early Annual Plan Workshops seem to provide little opportunity for Councillors to question the detail of financial projections when presented with overall annual expenditure and a generalised staff presentation and bland assertions to Councillors questions.
What happened to line by line scrutiny as promised?
(Do we really need 100 vehicles for 350 staff and have them replaced every 3 years or 100,000 kms ? Do we really need so many gas guzzling large 4WD vehicles? How about we give, and especially the Mayor (with his large cross over mayoral vehicle), and senior staff a bicycle each instead–now that would be real commitment to a sustainable transport policy in action and a case of walking the talk–by the way what happened to that very expensive Council bike shed ?)

There does appear to be a disconnect between Council incurring costs and a professed change of culture towards ratepayers. Interesting that Council. led by Councillor Welsh encouraged dialogue with Coastal Ratepayers United and Council staff have instigated discussion with rural ratepayers over ecological area designations but seem quite happy to pursue and rush into legal action on ‘soft’ targets of individual ratepayers.

Its about time Council pursued all supposed miscreants on a equal basis and that includes the many infringements perpetrated by developers. Its time there was consistency of approach across Council. There does appear to be an increasing gap between those with money and power and those without.
It is time Councillors questioned the use and cost of legal remedies by the executive team, let alone the manner of it being carried out (assisted by police–shame on whoever granted the search warrant). Perhaps Councillors should request a regular update at their 6 weekly meetings on all legal actions being pursued by Council.

Surely a more positive outcome for the Standens and Council would have been to require replacement trees to be planted to offset the decayed and diseased ones that had to be removed.
I am sure the Standens would have been more than happy to oblige given their obvious commitment to the environment. There are plenty within the community who I am sure would be willing to help.

I suspect ratepayers will now seriously consider cutting any native trees down before they get to 4m height or 300mm girth (to avoid the ‘tree police’ ) which I suggest is not a outcome the Council had in mind.

For a man that admires Bill English I am disappointed that Cnr Welsh has chosen to jump into the den of supporters defending council staff for prosecuting an elderly couple in Otaki. His role should be one of governance and representing the people that elected him and trying to get any rate increase below 3%. Bill English, would not be amused by Cnr Welsh’s antics and neither is Environment Minister Amy Adams who claims the council should not be so uppity. Cnr Welsh’s only defence appears to be that the council is prosecuting for seven trees instead of 70. That is irrelevant. To prosecute an elderly couple, after first having council staff arrive at the couples door step armed with a police officer who himself is armed with a search warrant is an over kill in anyone’s books expect, apparently, Cnr Welsh and the KCDC staff. It is not even an offence in Wellington City. For a man who is trumpeting shared services, the council’s application of its laws need to be brought into line with rest of New Zealand. The council spent in excess of $1.4 million dollars in legal fees last year. If Councillor Welsh truly believed in reducing rates reducing the council’s excessive legal costs would be a first step.

“I am acutely embarrassed by the actions of Council.”

I think most of us are Jackie. They are a bunch of muppets.

If KCDC’s actions, or lack of on important issues weren’t so tragic (for future generations) then we would all have a good laugh, oh and the fact that they are bankrupting the district.